Donald Kaufman, co-founder of US toystore K-B Toys and one of the world's most famous collectors of antique toys passed away on October 12th at the age of 79, just weeks after the second sale of his vast toy collection.
Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on October 8th, 1930, Donald's parents had owned a wholesale candy and toy supply firm since 1922. Donald joined the business and developed it from a local concern into the hugely successful K-B Toys, with shops across the US by buying stock at volume and using the bulk discounts he obtained to undercut rivals' pricing. K-B Toys was also a trailblazer in that it became one of the first toy shops to appear in the then-new indoor shopping malls built in the US in the 1950s and used TV adverts to promote toys to children. Kaufman sold the company in 1981. Sadly, the chain couldn't compete with Wal-Mart and other discount stores and online retailers and the last K-B branches were closed in February of this year.
But while building up his business, Donald also managed to find time to amass an amazing collection of antique toys, starting with an Arcade truck made of cast iron that he bought from a friend in 1950 for just $4.00. Over the next 60 years, he would visit countless antique shops, fleamarkets and dealers, bid in thousands of auctions and build up a collection of around 10,000 toys. He was enthusiastically joined in this pursuit by his wife Sally, who accompanied him all over the world to hunt for toys to add to their collection.
A dedicated completist, Donald would research every item he purchased in depth and, according to auctioneer Richard Bertoia, he had in his possession "every known variation of every known automotive toy. No matter how subtle the difference in detail might be, you would find that variation in his collection. Among collectors, he has been clearly declared the most important force this hobby has ever seen. His name starts and ends toy conversations."
Donald decided to begin selling off his collection in 2008, saying: "It is time. I want to have as much fun selling the collection as I had in building it."
Kaufman's 1912 Marklin Fire Pumper sold for $149,500
Due to the sheer volume of items, Bertoia Auctions, charged with the sales, decided the best way to sell it would be in a number of sales spread over a two or three year period. The first sales were held in March and September of this year. Star items of the most recent auction were a circa-1912 Fire Engine by Marklin of Germany (one of less than five that are known to exist), which sold for a total of $149,500. A 1930's Hubley Flower Shoppe Indian motorcycle delivery van sold for $38,560 and a tinplate Atom Jet Racer car by Yonezawa of Japan sold to an online bidder for $22,895. The total raised by this sale alone was just under $3 million. The March sale had brought $4.2 million.
Bertoia Auctions' owner Jeanne said it was important to Kaufman to see the items being sold. "He wanted the toys to be spread among all the collectors, and he was excited about seeing where the toys would end up. No wonder he was so beloved." She added. The third part of the sale will take place in April 2010.
Donald is survived by his wife Sally, daughters Suzanne, Deborah and Judith, former wife Faith and sister Joan as well as grandchildren Krista, Sadie, Isaac and Zubin, stepson Jack, stepdaughter Mary Ellen and stepgrandchildren Joseph, Rachelle and Roxanne. His brother Richard predeceased him.
Results of the September sale of the Kaufman collection can be viewed online at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.
Tags: Action Figures, Aviation, Bears and Soft Toys, Boats and Ships, Vehicles, Construction , Dolls, Figures and Toy Soldiers, Games and Puzzles, Kits, Other Stuff, Props Costumes and Weapons, Robots, Slot Cars, Tin Toys, Trains